‘We need to simplify and democratise marketing effectiveness’

Too often marketing effectiveness is the sole preserve of strategists and only spoken about when entering awards, but for advertising’s impact to be understood outside the marketing department this needs to change, says BBH’s managing partner of effectiveness, Tom Roach.

marketing effectiveness poster
BBH has posters of its creative work and results around the agency as it looks to ‘democratise’ effectiveness

Marketers need to make marketing effectiveness simpler, more accessible and more understandable if the impact of advertising and creativity is to be better understood outside the marketing department, according to BBH’s managing partner of effectiveness, Tom Roach.

Speaking this morning (4 April) at a Thinkbox event about effectiveness and creativity, Roach said both clients and agencies need to foster an “even greater” effectiveness culture. That means moving effectiveness away from the preserve of “data geeks and a subset of strategists” to something everyone in the marketing team understands.

“We need to democratise [marketing effectiveness],” he said. “We need to find ways to make it simple, understandable, creative. We need to share our stories and stats as far and wide as we possibly can. And we talk about making the numbers dance – can we illustrate the numbers in a way that is as simple and powerful as possible?”

BBH, which last year was crowned the IPA’s effectiveness company of the year, has done this in a number of ways. It has effectiveness posters in the corridors of the agency (see above) which use campaign assets and summarise the data in as simple a way as possible.

It has also created data visualisation videos for social that aim to summarise a 4,000-word IPA entry in 20 seconds.

“If we can take effectiveness beyond the data geeks and strategists then we’ve got a chance of proving the value of what we do,” said Roach.

He added: “We believe creativity and effectiveness are partners, they belong side by side. When we show work we always try to talk about the effectiveness of that work and when we talk about effectiveness we always try and show the work.”

Forward-thinking brands are trying to create a culture of marketing effectiveness, rather than having one team responsible. Diageo, for example, has created a marketing effectiveness tool called Catalyst that all its marketers can use to get real-time data on the impact work is having.

However, the vast majority of brands still have separate people responsible for effectiveness (if anyone is) and those people are siloed in marketing or insights. According to an IPA study in 2017, just 22% of brands feel marketing effectiveness “is no one business area but a shared responsibility”.

Ian Hampton, senior marketing manager at NHS England, admits that as a client it does not “do enough to show off our effectiveness in the office”. He points to the difference between the office of the chief press officer, which is covered in examples of its work and the headlines it has made, and that of the marketing team where there is little evidence of the impact.

If we can take effectiveness beyond the data geeks and strategists then we’ve got a chance of proving the value of what we do.

Tom Roach, BBH

“Everyone who walks through [the press office] can see what they are doing,” he said. “We don’t do enough showing off of our effectiveness. As a client, those posters and short films are absolutely right. I am leaving this building thinking how we can do them.”

However, he admitted that proving the effectiveness of government communications, in part because it is most often about behaviour change rather than commercial result, is tricky. But only by doing that can marketers “earn the right” to be creative.

“You need to earn your right to be creative. You will see the [growth in] maturity of our output from the NHS in creative terms. We’ve earned the right to be more creative by showing we are delivering effectiveness,” he added.

The most recent example of that work is the ‘We are the NHS’ campaign, created by MullenLowe, which launched last year. It was the first time since 2005 the NHS had run a recruitment campaign and coincided with the organisation’s 70th anniversary.

While it was a recruitment campaign aimed at attracting and retaining staff, it also needed to have a halo effect on people’s perceptions of working for the NHS and the NHS more generally.

It is still too early to judge its impact, but there are already positive signs. Recruitment for nursing staff had plummeted following the decision to get rid of bursaries in 2016. The campaign managed to reverse that trend, with applications to UCAS to do a nursing degree returning to growth.

It also led to a change in perceptions that the NHS hopes will improve retention. For example, the number of people who agreed with the statement, ‘I would get greater job satisfaction in a role outside the NHS’ fell from 48% before the campaign launched to 38% post launch. The number of people saying they would consider returning to the NHS increased from 42% to 61%.

“There is a time and a place for targeting. There is also a time to talk to the nation and this campaign shows the success [of creativity],” he concluded.